American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Argentina, Southern Patagonia, Chalten Massif, Cerro Torre; Saint Exupery, Chiaro di Luna; and Aguja Rafael, Artebelleza

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

Cerro Torre; Saint Exupery, Chiaro di Luna; and Aguja Rafael, Artebelleza. The weather in Patagonia this year dished out its usual tricks. Between December 15 and February 15 there were five climbable days—windows of good weather more than 16 hours long—with a couple of these windows after significant weather events that created quite snowy and icy conditions.

Dave Nettle and I welcomed the New Year on Cerro Torre’s Compressor Routes Bridwell Pitch, pushing on by headlamp in the dark. To our pleasant surprise we encountered the notorious mushroom in more benign conditions than normal; it involved ramping ice to a short vertical section of rime ice/snow, which led to the very top. Route conditions were mixed, requiring free climbing in boots and, usually, cleaning with one ice tool. We found the route to be quite a classic.

On January 5 it looked like the weather might break again. Having had enough icy rock, we set our sights on Chiaro di Luna, an 800m route on the west buttress of Saint Exupery, across the valley from the Torres. The morning of the 6th dawned windy and rainy. We waited out the weather in the Polish camp and on the morning of the 7th awoke to clear, calm conditions. As we approached the rock, we eyed a crack system well to the right of the original route. After an 80m approach pitch up the obvious, angling dike at the base of the wall, we followed an obvious crack and corner system for four 60m pitches. This section sported a 5.10+ corner and splitter system and a 5.11- offwidth. At the top of these four pitches we joined Chiaro di Luna for 300m. We then veered from the original line up high and went for the splitters in the top headwall, with two 60m pitches of 5.10+ corner and crack climbing. We called this variation Supertrek (V 5.1la), dedicating it to the glacier guides who kept us laughing in camp through the bad weather.

On February 17 I raced up to the base of Aguja Rafael’s north face with Argentines Juan “Piraña” Canale and Esteban Arellano. We free climbed the route Artebelleza, a route put up earlier in the season by the Swiss couple Carsten Von Birckhahn and Anke Clauss. We freed all the pitches originally aided, giving the route a rating of V 5.11b, but we could not finish the last 5.8 pitch due to rapidly deteriorating weather, descending just shy of the summit.

Bean Bowers

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